A Jack of all trades.
One of the clear challenges faced by indie game developers is the need to be skilled in all aspects of development. In a large company, there’s likely to be a diverse skill set available constantly. The person developing the technical aspects of the game is unlikely to have to consider the full future marketing and PR strategy. The heavyweights can afford to divide and conquer to create a successful new product.
The indies will be taking on the role of designer, developer, tester, marketer and salesperson. These passion projects can often become all-consuming and quite isolating; a universal challenge shared by anyone in the self-employed sphere. Naturally, many find that their work-life balance inevitably suffers.
Anyone who’s started a business from scratch knows about the accompanying financial difficulties. The same story goes for those within game development. In many cases, young graduates have to rely on grants and funding to get their project off the ground. With platforms like Kickstarter or Patreon now available for indie creatives, many receive financial support from anonymous patrons. After that, it becomes a constant balancing act of juggling their passion projects with various other jobs.
When working independently, it can be difficult to forecast and plan out your budget in full. Problems arise and it’s not always possible to know how long they will take to fix, particularly when working with unfamiliar technology.
Marketing and PR strategies.
Many developers have commented that one of their biggest challenges throughout their process is having to learn about the importance of marketing and PR when their game is finally ready for release. Technical development and marketing are, after all, pretty different disciplines. Without the means to engage with professional publishing or marketing teams, many have had to take it on themselves.
Advice commonly given to those creating these new games is to try and make sure that by the time you intend to release the game, you’ve built up a following and a level of interest on your platforms. Not only can you use the following for feedback during the development stages, knowing that your brand has some social investment behind it makes it a slightly less scary product for publishing teams to take a gamble on.
Examples and software
Games such as Undertale and Axiom Verge developed by individuals, to Terraria amassing an overwhelming 97% positive recommendation from over 424,852 reviews on Steam (despite being nine years old), shows how creatives are using this platform to create wonderfully imagined worlds that others love to play.
Software developers are releasing products specifically for the indie market such as Gamemaker Studio, with some even letting developers use software for free, like Unreal and Unity!
It might not be as much of a straight line to success for independent developers but it’s clear there are still pathways to get there. With the constant stream of fresh ideas and pushing boundaries, it’s easy to see why so many work hard to become part of it.
At Parable, we believe the gaming industry is one of the most exciting there is.
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